The Historian [NOOK Book]

Overview

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ...
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The Historian

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Overview

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history....Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
For centuries, the story of Dracula has captured the imagination of readers and storytellers alike. Kostova's breathtaking first novel, ten years in the writing, is an accomplished retelling of this ancient tale. "The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper…. As an historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it." With these words, a nameless narrator unfolds a story that began 30 years earlier.

Late one night in 1972, as a 16-year-old girl, she discovers a mysterious book and a sheaf of letters in her father's library -- a discovery that will have dreadful and far-reaching consequences, and will send her on a journey of mind-boggling danger. While seeking clues to the secrets of her father's past and her mother's puzzling disappearance, she follows a trail from London to Istanbul to Budapest and beyond, and learns that the letters in her possession provide a link to one of the world's darkest and most intoxicating figures. Generation after generation, the legend of Dracula has enticed and eluded both historians and opportunists alike. Now a young girl undertakes the same search that ended in the death and defilement of so many others -- in an attempt to save her father from an unspeakable fate. (Fall 2005 Selection)
Michael Dirde
… Elizabeth Kostova has produced an honorable summer book, reasonably well written and enjoyable and, most important of all, very, very long: One can tote The Historian to the beach, to the mountains, to Europe or to grandmother's house and still be reading its 21st-century coda when Labor Day finally rolls around.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
It would take a lot to kill a runaway bestseller like Kostova's debut. Though the audiobook doesn't quite drive a stake through its heart, neither does it do it any favors. With six actors (including Martin Jarvis, Jim Ward, Rosalyn Landor and Robin Atkin Downe) playing twice as many roles, the audio would benefit from a listing of the cast and characters rather than the unhelpful "in order of appearance" credit on the box. Listeners learn about a centuries-long vampire hunt from a historian, Paul (Boutsikaris), as he slowly tells the saga of his covert research to his teenage daughter (Whalley, whose lush whispery voice and conspiratorial attitude is most convincing). Paul's tale is supposed to be a secret, painfully pried from him by his daughter for whose safety he fears, but Boutsikaris recites it in a nonchalant and impersonal way. Most disappointing, though, is the voice of Dracula himself. His accent and delivery is exactly the stereotypical vampire voice used by everyone from Bela Lugosi to Sesame Street's the Count. The eerie swelling string music is a nice touch. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 11). (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

It's been four years since Kostova's door-stopping vampire novel first shot up the bestseller lists, but this marvelous audio adaptation is worth the wait. Narrated by an ensemble of talented actors, this audio book is enhanced by impressive musical scoring during key transitions (from past to present, or between narrators) and at pivotal junctures in the story. The music adds to the eeriness of the novel's progression, while the brisk abridgement keeps the pace moving much more compellingly than the print version: where the novel reproduced a 15 page academic journal article, this adaptation trims it to its bones by allowing primary sources to speak directly across centuries of history. Rich with evocative settings and a sparkling cast, this adaptation may be an improvement upon the original. A Little, Brown hardcover.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Forbes Magazine
Meaty thriller that never flags, gripping you from beginning to end. This tale revolves around Vlad the Impaler, the sadistic, homicidal 15th-century ruler of Wallachia (now part of Romania), who after death morphs into Dracula. (Vlad was also an effective fighter against the invading Ottoman Turks.) And, yes, Vlad goes around biting victims in the neck. The book is also a travelogue--descriptions of Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey and elsewhere are first-rate--and loaded with absorbing history. (13 Feb 2006)
—Steve Forbes
Library Journal
When a teenage girl asks about a medieval book hidden in her father's library, he reluctantly recounts how it changed his life. The book of blank pages, graced with only a single dragon illustration and the word "Drakulya," appeared as he pursued his doctorate, luring him into a historical search for the real Dracula, Vlad the Impaler. Similar works appeared to his mentor and to his future wife, enticing each to follow a trail of manuscripts and maps in search of Dracula's grave. Equal parts mystery, romance, travelog, and political primer, Kostova's debut novel won the Hopwoods Award for Novel-in-Progress. The tome took a decade to write and is occasionally as tedious as a long journey, but actors Justine Eyre and Paul Michael propel listeners through the byzantine plot. A library with a lively, enduring circulation of the print version could confidently invest in its audio counterpart.-Judith Robinson, Univ. at Buffalo, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A motherless 16-year-old girl stumbles upon a mysterious book and papers dating back to her father's student days at Oxford. She asks him to explain her find but he disappears before she can learn everything. Reading the salutation of the letters, "My dear and unfortunate successor," the unnamed heroine uncovers an academic quest that begins with her father's mentor's first research into the history of Vlad Tepes (Dracula) and reaches a kind of conclusion many years later. Kostova's debut book unfolds across Europe, through three main narrators, and back and forth in time, as the story of two families' connections to and search for the true Vlad the Impaler is unveiled. The historian of the title could refer to any of the novel's central characters or even to Vlad Tepes himself. While teens may gain a feeling for Cold War Europe and some respect for the Internet-less scholars of 40 years ago, Historian is an eerie thriller, an atmospheric mystery, and an appealing romance. Teen fascination with vampires has been keen since Bram Stoker popularized the legend of Dracula, right up through Buffy. This complex, convoluted, and well-written novel will appeal to teens who love a story on a grand scale that is as engrossing as it is entertaining.-Jane Halsall, McHenry Public Library District, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
San Francisco Chronicle
"Quite extraordinary....Kostova is a natural storyteller....She has refashioned the vampire myth into a compelling contemporary novel, a late-night page-turner."
Baltimore Sun
"Part thriller, part history, part romance....Kostova has a keen sense of storytelling and she has a marvelous tale to tell."
Denver Post
"Hypnotic....A thrill ride through history."
Miami Herald
"Impossible to resist."
Newsweek
"Kostova's vampire is no campy Lugosi knockoff....Blending history and myth, Kostova has fashioned a version so fresh that when a stake is finally driven through a heart, it inspires the tragic shock of something happening for the very first time."
From the Publisher
"Quite extraordinary....Kostova is a natural storyteller....She has refashioned the vampire myth into a compelling contemporary novel, a late-night page-turner."—San Francisco Chronicle

"Part thriller, part history, part romance....Kostova has a keen sense of storytelling and she has a marvelous tale to tell."—Baltimore Sun

"Hypnotic....A thrill ride through history."—Denver Post

"Impossible to resist."—Miami Herald

"Kostova's vampire is no campy Lugosi knockoff....Blending history and myth, Kostova has fashioned a version so fresh that when a stake is finally driven through a heart, it inspires the tragic shock of something happening for the very first time."—Newsweek

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780759513839
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/1/2005
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 16,727
  • File size: 770 KB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Kostova

Elizabeth Kostova graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress.

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Read an Excerpt

The Historian


By Elizabeth Kostova

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2005 Elizabeth Kostova
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-01177-0


Chapter One

In 1972 I was sixteen-young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions. He preferred to know that I was sitting attentively in class at the International School of Amsterdam; in those days his foundation was based in Amsterdam, and it had been my home for so long that I had nearly forgotten our early life in the United States. It seems peculiar to me now that I should have been so obedient well into my teens, while the rest of my generation was experimenting with drugs and protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, but I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous. To begin with, I was motherless, and the care that my father took of me had been deepened by a double sense of responsibility, so that he protected me more completely than he might have otherwise. My mother had died when I was a baby, before my father founded the Center for Peace and Democracy. My father never spoke of her and turned quietly away if I asked questions; I understood very young that this was a topic too painful for him to discuss. Instead, he took excellent care of me himself and provided me with a series of governesses and housekeepers-money was not an object with him where my upbringing was concerned, although we lived simply enough from day to day.

The latest of these housekeepers was Mrs. Clay, who took care of our narrow seventeenth-century town house on the Raamgracht, a canal in the heart of the old city. Mrs. Clay let me in after school every day and was a surrogate parent when my father traveled, which was often. She was English, older than my mother would have been, skilled with a feather duster and clumsy with teenagers; sometimes, looking at her too-compassionate, long-toothed face over the dining table, I felt she must be thinking of my mother and I hated her for it. When my father was away, the handsome house echoed. No one could help me with my algebra, no one admired my new coat or told me to come here and give him a hug, or expressed shock over how tall I had grown. When my father returned from some name on the European map that hung on the wall in our dining room, he smelled like other times and places, spicy and tired. We took our vacations in Paris or Rome, diligently studying the landmarks my father thought I should see, but I longed for those other places he disappeared to, those strange old places I had never been.

While he was gone, I went back and forth to school, dropping my books on the polished hall table with a bang. Neither Mrs. Clay nor my father let me go out in the evenings, except to the occasional carefully approved movie with carefully approved friends, and-to my retrospective astonishment-I never flouted these rules. I preferred solitude anyway; it was the medium in which I had been raised, in which I swam comfortably. I excelled at my studies but not in my social life. Girls my age terrified me, especially the tough-talking, chain-smoking sophisticates of our diplomatic circle-around them I always felt that my dress was too long, or too short, or that I should have been wearing something else entirely. Boys mystified me, although I dreamed vaguely of men. In fact, I was happiest alone in my father's library, a large, fine room on the first floor of our house.

My father's library had probably once been a sitting room, but he sat down only to read, and he considered a large library more important than a large living room. He had long since given me free run of his collection. During his absences, I spent hours doing my homework at the mahogany desk or browsing the shelves that lined every wall. I understood later that my father had either half forgotten what was on one of the top shelves or-more likely-assumed I would never be able to reach it; late one night I took down not only a translation of the Kama Sutra but also a much older volume and an envelope of yellowing papers.

I can't say even now what made me pull them down. But the image I saw at the center of the book, the smell of age that rose from it, and my discovery that the papers were personal letters all caught my attention forcibly. I knew I shouldn't examine my father's private papers, or anyone's, and I was also afraid that Mrs. Clay might suddenly come in to dust the dustless desk-that must have been what made me look over my shoulder at the door. But I couldn't help reading the first paragraph of the topmost letter, holding it for a couple of minutes as I stood near the shelves.

December 12, 1930

Trinity College, Oxford

My dear and unfortunate successor:

It is with regret that I imagine you, whoever you are, reading the account I must put down here. The regret is partly for myself-because I will surely be at least in trouble, maybe dead, or perhaps worse, if this is in your hands. But my regret is also for you, my yet-unknown friend, because only by someone who needs such vile information will this letter someday be read. If you are not my successor in some other sense, you will soon be my heir-and I feel sorrow at bequeathing to another human being my own, perhaps unbelievable, experience of evil. Why I myself inherited it I don't know, but I hope to discover that fact, eventually-perhaps in the course of writing to you or perhaps in the course of further events.

At this point, my sense of guilt-and something else, too-made me put the letter hastily back in its envelope, but I thought about it all that day and all the next. When my father returned from his latest trip, I looked for an opportunity to ask him about the letters and the strange book. I waited for him to be free, for us to be alone, but he was very busy in those days, and something about what I had found made me hesitate to approach him. Finally I asked him to take me on his next trip. It was the first time I had kept a secret from him and the first time I had ever insisted on anything.

Reluctantly, my father agreed. He talked with my teachers and with Mrs. Clay, and reminded me that there would be ample time for my homework while he was in meetings. I wasn't surprised; for a diplomat's child there was always waiting to be done. I packed my navy suitcase, taking my schoolbooks and too many pairs of clean kneesocks. Instead of leaving the house for school that morning, I departed with my father, walking silently and gladly beside him toward the station. A train carried us to Vienna; my father hated planes, which he said took the travel out of traveling. There we spent one short night in a hotel. Another train took us through the Alps, past all the white-and-blue heights of our map at home. Outside a dusty yellow station, my father started up our rented car, and I held my breath until we turned in at the gates of a city he had described to me so many times that I could already see it in my dreams.

Autumn comes early to the foot of the Slovenian Alps. Even before September, the abundant harvests are followed by a sudden, poignant rain that lasts for days and brings down leaves in the lanes of the villages. Now, in my fifties, I find myself wandering that direction every few years, reliving my first glimpse of the Slovenian countryside. This is old country. Every autumn mellows it a little more, in aeternum, each beginning with the same three colors: a green landscape, two or three yellow leaves falling through a gray afternoon. I suppose the Romans-who left their walls here and their gargantuan arenas to the west, on the coast-saw the same autumn and gave the same shiver. When my father's car swung through the gates of the oldest of Julian cities, I hugged myself. For the first time, I had been struck by the excitement of the traveler who looks history in her subtle face.

Because this city is where my story starts, I'll call it Emona, its Roman name, to shield it a little from the sort of tourist who follows doom around with a guidebook. Emona was built on Bronze Age pilings along a river now lined with art-nouveau architecture. During the next day or two, we would walk past the mayor's mansion, past seventeenth-century town houses trimmed with silver fleurs-de-lis, past the solid golden back of a great market building, its steps leading down to the surface of the water from heavily barred old doors. For centuries, river cargo had been hoisted up at that place to feed the town. And where primitive huts had once proliferated on the shore, sycamores-the European plane tree-now grew to an immense girth above the river walls and dropped curls of bark into the current.

Near the market, the city's main square spread out under the heavy sky. Emona, like her sisters to the south, showed flourishes of a chameleon past: Viennese Deco along the skyline, great red churches from the Renaissance of its Slavic-speaking Catholics, hunched brown medieval chapels with the British Isles in their features. (Saint Patrick sent missionaries to this region, bringing the new creed full circle, back to its Mediterranean origins, so that the city claims one of the oldest Christian histories in Europe.) Here and there an Ottoman element flared in doorways or in a pointed window frame. Next to the market grounds, one little Austrian church sounded its bells for the evening mass. Men and women in blue cotton work coats were moving toward home at the end of the socialist workday, holding umbrellas over their packages. As my father and I drove into the heart of Emona, we crossed the river on a fine old bridge, guarded at each end by green-skinned bronze dragons.

"There's the castle," my father said, slowing at the edge of the square and pointing up through a wash of rain. "I know you'll want to see that."

I did want to. I stretched and craned until I caught sight of the castle through sodden tree branches-moth-eaten brown towers on a steep hill at the town's center.

"Fourteenth century," my father mused. "Or thirteenth? I'm not good with these medieval ruins, not down to the exact century. But we'll look in the guidebook."

"Can we walk up there and explore it?"

"We can find out about it after my meetings tomorrow. Those towers don't look as if they'd hold a bird up safely, but you never know."

He pulled the car into a parking space near the town hall and helped me out of the passenger side, gallantly, his hand bony in its leather glove. "It's a little early to check in at the hotel. Would you like some hot tea? Or we could get a snack at that gastronomia. It's raining harder," he added doubtfully, looking at my wool jacket and skirt. I quickly got out the hooded waterproof cape he'd brought me from England the year before. The train trip from Vienna had taken nearly a day and I was hungry again, in spite of our lunch in the dining car.

But it was not the gastronomia, with its red and blue interior lights gleaming through one dingy window, its waitresses in their navy platform sandals-doubtless-and its sullen picture of Comrade Tito, that snared us. As we picked our way through the wet crowd, my father suddenly darted forward. "Here!" I followed at a run, my hood flapping, almost blinding me. He had found the entrance to an art-nouveau teahouse, a great scrolled window with storks wading across it, bronze doors in the form of a hundred water-lily stems. The doors closed heavily behind us and the rain faded to a mist, mere steam on the windows, seen through those silver birds as a blur of water. "Amazing this survived the last thirty years." My father was peeling off his London Fog. "Socialism's not always so kind to its treasures."

At a table near the window we drank tea with lemon, scalding through the thick cups, and ate our way through sardines on buttered white bread and even a few slices of torta. "We'd better stop there," my father said. I had lately come to dislike the way he blew on his tea over and over to cool it, and to dread the inevitable moment when he said we should stop eating, stop doing whatever was enjoyable, save room for dinner. Looking at him in his neat tweed jacket and turtleneck, I felt he had denied himself every adventure in life except diplomacy, which consumed him. He would have been happier living a little, I thought; with him, everything was so serious.

But I was silent, because I knew he hated my criticism, and I had something to ask. I had to let him finish his tea first, so I leaned back in my chair, just far enough so that my father couldn't tell me to please not slump. Through the silver-mottled window I could see a wet city, gloomy in the deepening afternoon, and people passing in a rush through horizontal rain. The teahouse, which should have been filled with ladies in long straight gowns of ivory gauze, or gentlemen in pointed beards and velvet coat collars, was empty.

"I hadn't realized how much the driving had worn me out." My father set his cup down and pointed to the castle, just visible through the rain. "That's the direction we came from, the other side of that hill. We'll be able to see the Alps from the top."

I remembered the white-shouldered mountains and felt they breathed over this town. We were alone together on their far side, now. I hesitated, took a breath. "Would you tell me a story?" Stories were one of the comforts my father had always offered his motherless child; some of them he drew from his own pleasant childhood in Boston, and some from his more exotic travels. Some he invented for me on the spot, but I'd recently grown tired of those, finding them less astonishing than I'd once thought.

"A story about the Alps?"

"No." I felt an inexplicable surge of fear. "I found something I wanted to ask you about."

He turned and looked mildly at me, graying eyebrows raised above his gray eyes.

"It was in your library," I said. "I'm sorry-I was poking around and I found some papers and a book. I didn't look-much-at the papers. I thought -"

"A book?" Still he was mild, checking his cup for a last drop of tea, only half listening.

"They looked-the book was very old, with a dragon printed in the middle."

He sat forward, sat very still, then shivered visibly. This strange gesture alerted me at once. If a story came, it wouldn't be like any story he'd ever told me. He glanced at me, under his eyebrows, and I was surprised to see how drawn and sad he looked.

"Are you angry?" I was looking into my cup now, too.

"No, darling." He sighed deeply, a sound almost grief stricken. The small blond waitress refilled our cups and left us alone again, and still he had a hard time getting started.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Kostova. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

  1. In the "Note to the Reader," the narrator tells us, "There is a final resource to which I have resorted when necessary -- the imagination." How does she use this resource in telling her story? Is it a resource to which the other historians in the book resort, as well?
  2. The theme of mentors and disciples is an important one in the book. Who are the story's mentors, and in what sense is each a mentor? Who are the book's disciples?
  3. Near the end of Chapter 4, Rossi says, "Human history's full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination." Does he follow his own advice? How does his attitude toward history evolve in the course of his own story?
  4. In Chapter 5, Paul's friend Massimo asserts that in history, there are no small questions. What does he mean by this and how does this idea inform the book? Do you agree with his statement?
  5. Helen and Paul come from very different worlds, although they share a passion for history. How have their upbringings differed? What factors have shaped each?
  6. Throughout the book, anyone who finds an antique book with a dragon in the middle is exposed to some kind of danger. What does this danger consist of? Is it an external power, or do the characters bring it upon themselves?
  7. Each of the characters is aware of some of the history being made in his or her own times. What are some of these real historical events, and why are they important to the story?
  8. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Paul's daughter notes, "I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous." How does she change as a person in the course of her quest?
  9. Helen's history is deeply intertwined with that of Dracula. In what ways are the two characters connected? Does she triumph over his legacy, or not?
  10. In Chapter 73, Dracula states his credo: "History has taught us that the nature of man is evil, sublimely so." Do the characters and events of the novel prove or disprove this belief?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1110 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(505)

4 Star

(292)

3 Star

(149)

2 Star

(104)

1 Star

(60)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1113 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 14, 2008

    Better than Stoker's original?

    Although vampire stories have always intrigued people, I must confess that I'm surprised (although happily so) that this book has gotten so many good rewiews-- this in a time when fluff vampire stories like those written by Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris are all the rage. It's nice to know that there are others out there who can appreciate a historically-grounded, thoroughly researched book and still be entertained by it.<BR/><BR/>Although The Historian is one of my favorites, I do have a difficult time recommending it because I understand that not all people (in fact, MOST people) can't sit through more than 200 pages of anything, especially not a book that gives lengthy details of obscure eastern European history (which I found particularly interesting). If you're looking for blood, horror, and sex, this isn't the book for you!<BR/><BR/>Some may consider this blasphemy, but I found Kostova's work much more engaging and fascinating than Stoker's original Dracula. I hope we don't have to wait another ten years to see another novel with her name on it!

    23 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Please tell me why....

    The paperback is 3.00 cheaper than the eBook version?! I absolutely love my Nook, but refuse to buy any eBook that costs more than I can pay for the actual hold-in-my hand printed book!

    15 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 5, 2009

    A slow build to a poorly written ending

    At one level, the writing is very good. It is a slow, prolonged buildup of tension that leaves the reader wondering when it will all explode. In the mean time, the author does an excellent job of explaining the fact and fiction of Vlad's life and death and the times he lived in. She also paints with beautiful detail the Eastern European world, especially the political situation as it existed during the Cold War.


    So now you are asking "if it did all these wonderful things, what is your problem?" One small criticism of mine is that the characters are very obvious. The good guys are very good and the bad guys are obviously bad, and the reader knows which is which from the first scene. That's not the big problem, however. Put simply, if you are going to build tension in such a long, drown out manner, there had better be a payoff at the end. This is where the tension that the author spent so long bringing to a peak falls flat on its face. Here is a simple rule- if you are going to slowly build the drama over the course of the entire novel, it had better not end with a complete whimper. The entire climax was over in three lines - I kid you not. I reread it four times, believing I might have missed something. I read the remaining pages frantically expecting that there had to be a big twist - nope. Even worse, the characters afterward shrug the whole thing off as no big deal - as if they had done nothing more than order a frappachino.

    It has been a very long time since I have actually finished a book and been angry at the book itself, but The Historian had me stomping around the house at midnight. Why? Because this story held so much promise, such a buildup, that to have it fizzle so abruptly at the end made me feel like it was all some kind of cruel joke. I could have almost forgiven it if the book had been bad from start to finish. Instead it felt like buying a beautiful painting only to have your neighbor light it on fire for a laugh. In the end, it felt like a lot of wasted effort.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2008

    Honestly thought it'd be better

    I honestly had trouble finishing this book. There were 'secrets' in the book that none were supposed to know about, yet every character did. I also skimmed through the last 150 to 200 pages. I cannot understand for the life of me how so many people can say this is a great book, but after reading other reviews, I realize that many others also think it could have been better. WAY better. I wouldn't recommend this book if you're actually looking for substance. It was more of a tired love story.

    10 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

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    Consuming

    Throughout my journey of reading this book it consumed my thoughts night and day. It not only put a realistic spin on the "vampire" genre but it also put the most realistic spin on vampires themselves. While I, of course, do not believe in vampires I was conciously checking dark passageways and streets around me to make sure nothing was there when I was in the midst of reading "The Hisorian". The plot and details were rich and the characters, while well thought out, were somewhat lacking.But not enough to actually consider putting the book down.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

    Interesting...But Not Quite So

    It took me a good 6-7 chapters for me to really get into this book from the moment I started. After that, I had the hope that the book would continue to hold my interest throughout. My hope failed. The historical facts that are stated here, were incredibly fascinating to me. However, I did not find that the author was enough of a good historical lecturer to hold my interest the way that it could have been held. The information just seemed dull while the subject itself was extremely interesting. The letters that were sorted throughout the story, likewise, were a nuisance at times to go through, because by this time, it all seemed to drag on and on. It appeared as if when a part in the book that lacked interest appeared, that was when the letters were also thrown in, leaving me with the urge to close the book and not continue reading. The ending left me dissatisfied, and were it not for the fact that I found the plot (at least) intriguing, I would have never either picked up this book, or finished it. It left a lot to be desired by me.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2008

    Soulless writing

    Move on, nothing to read here. There's the making of a good book within the 600+ pages but better to leave to someone who can put soul into a story. Characters: soulless (an apt pun). I could not distinguish the voice of any of the characters. They all talk, act and think the same way. Like spending the night with dull dinner guests in which you can't help daydream they'll drop dead in their soup. 'When will Dracula ever show up to dispatch these people?' Plot: laughable. Was this a Saturday Night Live cast-off? The Evil Dracula: Kostova's worst sin - she created a dull vampire. Not scary, not menacing, just dull.

    8 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2008

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    Disappointing qualities outweigh redeeming ones

    I thought that there were two scenes in this book that live up to the thriller genre. The scene where they were being painted in the outdoor cafe was especially original. Otherwise, the suspense was tepid at best and my really big complaint is that the ending felt entirely rushed. I found the premise and the characters interesting but the book did not quite take-off like I hoped. It seemed pretty clear to me that this was the work of a freshman novelist.

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2007

    Too Long - Ridiculous Ending

    The book had definite possibilities, but needed the strong hand of a good editor. Way too long and ended with a 'trite who-done-it' style finale. Very disappointed.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2009

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    A Unique Take on the 'Dracula' Story!

    Although it was a bit slow to start out, and at times I almost (though not quite) got lost in the flow of the story, The Historian is a truly thrilling ride, and one I would highly suggest to anyone looking for something new to read!

    Despite the fact that this book is about vampires, I can honestly say it's not like any of the other books out there on this subject. Different, unique, and one-of-a-kind are great words to describe this novel. You'll find no romanticized vampires in this novel!

    I enjoyed how Elizabeth Kostova managed to tell this captivating story, weaving together not only the story from Paul and Helen's point of view (through letters and some of it though story telling on Paul's part), but also from the point of view of Paul's daughter. While switching from the two POV's may, at first, seem a bit confusing, Kostova did a magnificent job at it, and I can honestly say that there was only one or two spots where I was momentarily confused.

    Since the novel was told in such a unique way, and done well, I really felt the connection to not only the story but the characters as well. They were not just words on a page, but honestly seemed like they were real. This was partly due to the lush details provided and partly due to the talent of the author. Not every author can pull this off, but fortunately Kostova did because, to be quiet honest, if she had not managed this, this story would have been drastically different, and a great deal harder to get through without losing interest.


    4 STARS! A seamless twist of history and myth, The Historian is a great read for anyone that enjoys a good mystery. Mystery, suspense, a bit of historical accuracy, and even a dash of romance--- really, who wouldn't be interested in reading it? And don't let the vampire plot turn you away, I promise, it's nothing like any vampire story you've read before!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2007

    Enough to string you along

    This could've been a really cool read, but it wasn't. I'm actually surprised I finished it. Summed up, The Historian is a long-winded, not even creepy enough rip-off of Bram Stoker's Dracula. I didn't care about the characters since there's hardly any character development and the 'conversations' are boring because all anybody seems to know how to talk about is history. If I wanted a history lesson, I could go take a history class, or check out a book from the library on Eastern Europe. Some of the facts were interesting, but I think it could've been pulled together beautifully if it wasn't so predictable and the characters had some personality. When I read why Dracula was doing what he was doing, I thought 'give me a break.' The climax sucked.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2011

    Boring

    I hated this book.It slowly went nowhere. I kept waiting for something anything to happen then it ended. And the ending was predictable.I will never read anything else by this author.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 2, 2010

    AMAZING, I loved it!!!!!

    This was not the typical Dracula bit em and bleed em book. This book was amazing. It created such a vivid picture of history and the different countries that they ventured into. It made me want to visit so many countries just by reading this book. I loved the story and plot. I loved the characters everything about it was great I would recommend this to anyone who wants a GREAT Dracula read...not vampire...Dracula.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 13, 2010

    Dracula, Romance, and History

    The first time that I read this book was at the age of 15. I loved it then, and loved it now when I finished it just recently. For me this book was the perfect combination of thrills, tradegy, romance, and that little bit of vampirism. I highly recommend this book only to those who would truly appreciate the history behind each character. They each have their own stories to tell, but a connection appears between these stories. I am now 18 and hopeful that the teens of my generation can appreciate the famous story that is tied into this amazing book. I loved every minute of reading it, and hope to read more of Kostovas books in the future.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2009

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    I couldn't stop reading

    It's not often that I sit at work thinking about going home to read a book, but this one is written that well. I was actually sad when I finished, not because of the story but because I knew that I would miss reading it. Stories about vampires are not normally my favorite theme, but her writing is so captivating, and it involves so much more than a vampire chase. Her description of the people and customs from poor Eastern European areas behind the iron curtain is fascinating - the ancient castles and crypts, the secrets. And the glimpses of European history, whether one can believe them to be true or not, are presented in such a way that one gets a new respect for history itself. There are several plots working together, two of them love stories and a desparate vampire trying to keep his world together in a new, modern world. Her use of language I would compare with Virginia Woolf; Individual sentences are a joy to read. This book is thrilling, suspenceful, fascinating, dramatic... what a good book should be.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    too much detail

    This book initially drew me in with it's quickly developing story. Unfortunately it slowed down a bit too much for me by the introduction of too many intricate details. It began to feel more like a chore than enjoyment. I found it difficult to keep track of all the minute details. There was definately lots of suspense and mystery and hope I can eventually get to the end because it's a great concept.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2009

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    Suspenseful and carefully crafted - The Historian takes you on an adventure!

    The tale of The Historian is told by a sixteen year old girl raised as a privileged and protected diplomat's daughter. As she accompanies her father on his research and diplomatic missions through Europe, we learn that her father has a dark and painful secret that is somehow tied to the myth of the vampire Drakula or Vlad Tepes of Wallachia and the disappearance of his beloved advisor Professor Rossi.

    As she tries to coax the story from him, the book shifts perspective and we read of his adventures from his own voice. Occasionally, the story of the search for Drakula is told through the voice of Oxford professor Rossi. Through carefully woven narratives from these three characters and from the letters and journal entries, we are taken into a dark and mysterious world where a centuries old evil continues to reign.

    As the journey takes us from the libraries of Oxford, America, and Constantinople to remote towns in Hungary and Eastern Europe in search for the missing Professor Rossi, the story becomes one of courage, friendship, and a long abiding love.

    Suspenseful and carefully crafted, The Historian evokes the leisurely prose of classics of the genre. An unusual read, I am very much looking forward to Elizabeth Kostova's next novel, The Swan Thieves, which comes out in January 2010.

    Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (September 1, 2009), 720 pages.
    Review copy provided by the publisher.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2009

    Best book in a long time

    I am the kind of person who finishes maybe 1 in 3 books - I get bored, or frustrated, or lose interest. When I saw how thick The Historian was, I would have bet ten bucks that it would go unfinished. However, from the moment I read the first page - I was consumed.

    Regarding other reviews: many readers have said, "you can't distinguish one narrator from the next" - this is FALSE, and almost humorous to me - its always very clear who is narrating and in the rare occasion where its vague, well, it adds to the mystery of the story. Other readers have said, "the book lost me halfway through - it turns into boring history." This is also FALSE, so much so that I found myself checking the page # I was on, to see if I was indeed halfway through since I was more engrossed than ever. I do however agree with reviewers who've said the climax of the book is a letdown - this is TRUE. Its quite disappointing but you are quickly moved into the next mystery, so I "got over it" so to speak. It certainly isn't so disappointing that I regretted reading the book. This book kept me up late many nights, and was the first thing I thought about upon waking some mornings. It is addictive! Full of interesting twists, history/literature, and some romance interspersed throughout. I am now looking everywhere for similar books and want to delve into rare literature myself. I could re-read this ten times and still catch new clues/mysteries. This is one of my top five favorite books ever.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2009

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    Good in Theory, Somehow Gets Mangled

    I really liked the last half of this book, you know once the action started picking up. The problem is it took so long to get there that the book seemed difficult to enjoy. It's a relatively long book, and I think the beginning could really be pared down. However, the writing seems to be in the style of older classics that really did take their time getting to where they were going. <BR/><BR/>The characters seem a little cookie cutter at times. First person narrative changes, but sometimes it's difficult to know who is talking because they seem very similar. Dracula himself isn't even as imposing as he might be. Although, his characterization manages to both differenitate him from the typical Dracula myth and incorporate elements a reader might expect to form something that is unique but not entirely out of left field.<BR/><BR/>The romantic sublots are a little lacking. I think it could have been left out for the daughter because it wasn't necessary to the plot, and wasn't even really developed all that well. It was just there. <BR/><BR/>The ideas the novel revolves around are all cool, and the description of locations is fascinating. Kostova is effective in transporting readers to foreign lands. I think the best aspect is the way in which Kostova combines narrative, history, and folklore fluidly. The worst part is the way the narrative drags for the better part of the first half of the tale.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2008

    Was Thrilled to Death Until the Last 200 Pages

    I absolutely love the writing style! So very Romantic (as in era)! I can't say enough about how easy this is to read and how wonderful, but the story itself began to drag after the point at which we learn about Elena's mother and Prof. Rossi. Being dragged from Turkey to Hungary to Bulgaria was just excruciating. I understand that they needed to consult every expert on the route the monks might have taken from Turkey, but surely one less journey would have made OUR journey much more enjoyable. I hardly ever put down a book without finishing it, but I'm about to do so with this one if it doesn't start heading downhill soon!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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